The Aristocracy of Armed Talent is a sociological study of Singapore’s military elite, which author Samuel Ling Wei Chan defines as uniformed Singapore Armed Forces officers who wear one or more stars in the Army, Navy or Air Force. The author models this work on the sociological studies of political elites by Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca, and Robert Michels, as well as the path-breaking studies of civil-military relations written by Samuel Huntington, Morris Janowitz, and others.
The term samurai brings to mind disciplined, well-trained warrior-soldiers, skillfully wielding swords and following a strict military-ethical code of honor and sacrifice. Michael Wert, an associate professor at Marquette University who specializes in Japanese history, seeks to dispel this popular depiction in his fascinating short history of the samurai.
Krishan Kumar, who teaches sociology at the University of Virginia, is a child of empire. His parents lived in Lahore (then India) prior to the end of British rule and the subsequent partition that created the modern state of Pakistan. Kumar was himself born in Trinidad and Tobago, then part of the British Empire, and was educated in England at St John’s College, Cambridge, and the London School of Economics.
French investigative journalist Roger Faligot has been writing about Chinese spying and intelligence for more than thirty years. His encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Communist China’s intelligence services is on full display in his book Chinese Spies, originally published in France in 2008 (and later updated in 2015) and now in an English translation by Natasha Lehrer.
On 13 April 1919, British and Imperial troops under the command of General Reginald “Rex” Dyer gunned down between 400 and 600 Indian protestors at Jallianwala Bagh, a garden near the Golden Temple in the city of Amritsar in the Punjab state of India. Many more protestors were wounded. The shooting lasted for ten minutes. Many were shot as they ran for cover. Some were killed as they tried to scale high walls. The Amritsar Massacre, Winston Churchill told the House of Commons, was a “slaughter”, a “monstrous event”, “an episode … without precedent or parallel in the modern history of the British Empire.” British historian AJP Taylor wrote that the massacre was “the decisive moment when Indians were alienated from British rule.”
It is a truism that war is—by its very nature—tragic. For soldiers, it is about killing and being killed. World War II resulted in the deaths of more than 70 million people, a number which tends to overwhelm and obscure the individual lives lost. Sometimes the tragedy of war is easier to comprehend in small doses. That is what Mark Obmascik, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former writer for the Denver Post, has accomplished in this fast-paced tale of the lives of two soldiers—a Japanese surgeon and an American infantryman—whose paths crossed on a desolate island in the northern Pacific.
Political scientists who study international relations often seek to discern patterns of state behavior from history and to formulate theories or typologies to explain that behavior. Such an approach can contribute to our understanding of why states behave as they do, but human action never wholly conforms to neat formulas.